The Bears (9-6) and Detroit Lions (4-11) meet up at Ford Field on Sunday with a playoff berth at stake for the Bears. Win and hope the Green Bay Packers beat the Minnesota Vikings to earn a trip most likely to San Francisco to take on the 49ers. Sounds plausible, right?
When the Bears and Lions met up at Soldier Field in prime time earlier this season, the Bears came away with a 13-7 win, hardly a runaway win to give the Bears any overconfidence heading into Sunday. Back during their first matchup, the Lions were still thought to be playoff contenders following a strong 2011 season, but seven straight losses turned them from contenders to pretenders.
To help us get prepped for this latest divisional matchup, we reached out to longtime friend Zac Snyder who runs SideLion Report. Here are our questions and Zac’s answers:
1. In the offseason, all we heard coming out of Detroit was a lack of discipline and it seemed to make it’s way onto the field. The Lions are a talented team, but it’s not coming together for them. Who, if anyone, will be held accountable for that lack of discipline? Is head coach Jim Schwartz on the hot seat?
The lack of discipline narrative fit a lot better last year when the Lions were racking up stupid personal foul penalties. That hasn’t really been the case this year and if you want to extend that discussion to the off-field incidents last offseason I think the individual players have been held accountable through the actions the organization has taken. Aaron Berry was cut, Titus Young threw away multiple chances and is likely done with the Lions and Mikel Leshoure and Nick Fairley have been good citizens this season after learning their lessons.
Jim Schwartz’s job is safe for at least another year but I’m wondering if we will see a different demeanor from him on the sidelines next year. He had no problem accepting responsibility for his challenge flag gaffe on Thanksgiving Day and it is possible that this disappointing season is taken as a big piece of humble pie.
2. What is the Lions biggest need in the offseason? I can think of running back and secondary as a couple of areas from an outsiders perspective, but what do I know. What do you think?
I feel the Lions’ biggest need is for playmakers on defense, regardless of position. That starts with pass rushers as the Lions’ defense is predicated on pressuring the quarterback. Cliff Avril has been good but nothing like a franchise player, Kyle Vanden Bosch is showing his age and the Lions haven’t received breakout performances from the guys behind their starters. A stud pass rusher is definitely an option for the Lions in the first round in April. Louis Delmas is an asset to the defense but has a troubling injury history and the Lions need to add a safety regardless of whether or not Delmas, an impending free agent, is retained. The Lions don’t have a shutdown corner but they did draft three corners a year ago and may be able to count on some development there heading into 2013. Bill Bentley showed promise before ending on IR, Chris Greenwood went from the PUP list to IR and never had a chance to contribute and Jonte Green has played with mixed results but improved throughout the season.
3. On to Sunday’s game. What’s the outlook for Calvin Johnson? He’s already set the single season receiving record. Do you think he gets the yardage he needs to hit 2000 for the season? Is he looking for a ‘revenge game’ against Peanut Tillman, who really handled him in the first matchup?
100-yard games are feeling like just the starting point for Calvin Johnson who now holds an NFL record with eight straight. I’m not sure he’s really the kind of guy that thinks about ‘revenge games’ against certain players. It’s more likely he wants another shot at the Bears because he missed some potentially big opportunities because of drops in the last meeting. He needs 108 yards to hit 2,000 for the year – he has surpassed that in 11 of 15 games this season. He will get there.
4. Matthew Stafford might get close to 5,000 yards again this season but only has 17 TD passes this season compared to 41 last season. What happened? Can he bounce back in 2013?
Part of the explanation is that the Lions are running for more touchdowns this year than last (17 so far this year after finishing with just 9 last year) but the Lions offense has turned the ball over more this year and Stafford hasn’t been as sharp. The yardage total looks nice but he will set an NFL record for attempts in a season in the process. I’m still a believer in Stafford’s ability to become widely regarded as an elite quarterback but he will likely have to do it the Brett Favre way than the traditional quarterback way. He has received a lot of criticism for his mechanics this year but he really isn’t doing anything different from last year (mechanically) when he was lauded as a breakout performer.
5. What’s your prediction for the game on Sunday, including a final score?
I think it will the typical 2012 Lions game where there are times they look good, times they look terrible and ultimately can’t find enough to win the game. Bears 24, Lions 20.
Thanks to Zac as always. Head over to SideLion Report to check out my answers to Zac’s questions.